27/01/2006
Security Council
SC/8621

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5359th Meeting* (AM & PM)


SECURITY COUNCIL STRESSES NEED FOR DISARMAMENT, DEMOBILIZATION


OF ARMED GROUPS IN AFRICA ’S GREAT LAKES REGION


After Day-Long Debate, Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution 1653 (2006)


The Security Council stressed today the need for Governments in Africa’s Great Lakes region to disarm and demobilize militias and armed groups which continued to attack civilians, United Nations and humanitarian personnel, threatening the stability of individual States, as well as the region as a whole.


Adopting resolution 1653 (2006), the Council strongly condemned the activities of such groups as the Forces démocratique de liberation du Rwanda (FDLR), Burundi’s Palipehutu-Forces national de liberation (FNL) and Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which continued to attack civilians and United Nations and humanitarian personnel, as well as to commit human rights abuses against local populations.  The Council reiterated its demand that all such groups lay down their arms and engage voluntarily and without delay or preconditions in their disarmament, repatriation or resettlement.


Underscoring the primary responsibility of Governments in the region to protect their populations in accordance with international law, the Council stressed the importance of ensuring the full, safe and unhindered access of humanitarian workers to people in need.  It called upon all States in the region to deepen their cooperation with a view to ending the activities of illegal armed groups and underlined that those States must abide by their obligations under the United Nations Charter, and that they must refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of their neighbours.


The Council reiterated its demand that the Governments of Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi take measures to prevent the use of their respective territories in support of activities of armed groups present in the region.


Speakers in the preceding day-long open debate, including several Foreign Ministers, urged unshakable commitment to the Great Lakes region, stressing that the peace processes would remain fragile for some time and that the promise of a strong Central Africa risked relapsing into conflict without steadfast international support and “economic intensive care”.  They generally agreed that the regional approach taken by the Security Council was the right one, and that the region’s long-term stability required a growing pool of democratic nations with inclusive governments, stable institutions and functioning judiciaries.  Many said it would not be possible to develop the continent as long as its very heart -- its strategic epicentre -- was engulfed in grinding poverty and violent armed conflict.


Spotlighting recent positive developments were the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region in November 2004.  The resulting Dar es Salaam Declaration was both a framework for negotiations and an outline of guiding principles for action.  Many speakers cautioned against losing sight of the strategic importance of convening a second such conference as soon as possible -- following a postponement of a summit that was to have been held in Nairobi, Kenya, in late 2005 -- in order to build on the momentum and ensure that the commitments “sketched out” in 2004 led to real achievements now.


Speakers also stressed the importance of implementing the reconstruction zone plan set out by Ibrahima Fall, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Great Lakes.  Under that plan, for example, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be deemed “zone number 1”.  Efforts towards peace in those three countries, which had experienced interconnected conflicts, would need international support to gain stability, particularly the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Also speaking today was the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania, whose delegation holds the Council presidency for January.  In addition to interventions by the 15 Security Council members, additional participants in the discussion, including at the ministerial level, were representatives of:  the Republic of the Congo; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Namibia; Botswana; Qatar; Rwanda; Sudan; Belgium; Canada; Burundi; Angola; Zimbabwe; Kenya; Uganda; Zambia; Australia; Tunisia; South Africa; Egypt; Republic of Korea; Algeria; Senegal; Central African Republic; Nigeria; Pakistan; Brazil; Cameroon; Guatemala; Norway; and Austria, on behalf of the European Union.


Additional statements were made by the Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union, the Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid of the European Commission, and the Special Envoy of the Netherlands to the Great Lakes Region.


The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and was suspended 1:20 p.m.  It resumed at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 7:25 p.m.


Council Resolution


The full text of resolution 1653 (2006) reads, as follows:


The Security Council


Recalling its resolutions and the statements by its President on the Great Lakes region of Africa and concerning the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Burundi, and in particular resolutions 1649 and 1650 of 21 December 2005,


Recalling its resolution 1625 (2005) on strengthening the effectiveness of the Security Council and the role of civil society in the prevention and resolution of armed conflict, particularly in Africa,


Further recalling its resolution 1631 (2005) on cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations and General Assembly resolution 59/213 (2004) on cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union,


Reaffirming its respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of all States in the region, and recalling the importance of the principles of good-neighbourliness, non-interference and cooperation in the relations among States in the region,


Reiterating its condemnation of the genocide in Rwanda of 1994 and the armed conflicts which have plagued the Great Lakes region of Africa in the past decade and expressing its profound concern at the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law resulting in wide scale loss of life, human suffering and destruction of property,


Aware that the link between the illegal exploitation of natural resources, the illicit trade in those resources and the proliferation and trafficking of arms is one of the factors fuelling and exacerbating conflicts in the Great Lakes region of Africa, and especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,


Expressing its deep concern at the devastating impact of conflict and insecurity on the humanitarian situation throughout the Great Lakes region and their implications for regional peace and security, especially where arms and armed groups move across borders, such as the long-running and brutal insurgency by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda which has caused the death, abduction and displacement of thousands of innocent civilians in Uganda, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo,


Welcoming the efforts undertaken by the Tripartite Plus Joint Commission comprising of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda as a significant contribution to heightened dialogue between the countries of the Great Lakes,


Recalling its previous resolutions that reaffirmed the importance of holding an international conference on peace, security and stability in the Great Lakes region and recognizing the continued ownership of the process by the countries of the region with the facilitation of the United Nations, the African Union, the Group of Friends and all others concerned;


Taking note with satisfaction of the holding of the First International Conference on Peace, Security, Democracy and Development in the Great Lakes region, in Dar es Salaam, on 19 and 20 November 2004,


Recognizing the ‘Good Neighbourly Declaration’ of September 2003 by the representatives of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda and the Dar es Salaam Declaration of 2004 adopted by the first Summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region,


Recognizing the significant achievements and progress in the peace processes in the Great Lakes region, the recent installation of a democratically elected government in Burundi and progress in the transition to democratic institutions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,


Expressing its gratitude to the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and to the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB) for their significant contribution to peace in the region,


Paying tribute to the donor community for the assistance it is providing to the countries in the region, and encouraging it to maintain that assistance,


Welcoming General Assembly resolution 60/1 on the 2005 World Summit Outcome and in particular the commitment to address the special needs of Africa,


“1.   Commends the positive role played by the Secretary-General, the African Union, the Group of Friends of the Great Lakes region and other stakeholders in organizing and participating in the First Summit of the International Conference on Peace, Security, Democracy and Development in the Great Lakes Region of Africa;


“2.   Urges the countries of the Great Lakes region to continue in their collective efforts to develop a subregional approach for promoting good relations, peaceful coexistence, peaceful resolution of disputes as envisaged in the Dar es Salaam Declaration and encourages them, in partnership with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and other stakeholders, to finalize the preparations for the second Summit to be held in Nairobi, including a clear focus on peace and security issues, with a view to adopting a Security, Stability and Development Pact for the countries of the Great Lakes region;


“3.   Calls upon the countries of the region to agree on confidence-building measures based on effective and concrete actions;


“4.   Encourages and supports the countries of the Great Lakes region, individually and collectively, to strengthen and institutionalize respect for human rights and humanitarian law, including respect for women’s rights and protection of children affected by armed conflict, good governance, rule of law, democratic practices as well as development cooperation;


“5.   Encourages the development of the prevailing goodwill and relations among the countries of the region which have positively influenced the successful transition in Burundi and the course of the ongoing democratic transition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo;


“6.   Urges all States concerned to take action to bring to justice perpetrators of grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and to take appropriate measures of international cooperation and judicial assistance in this regard;


“7.   Expresses its support to the efforts by States in the region to build independent and reliable national judicial institutions in order to put an end to impunity;


“8.   Strongly condemns the activities of militias and armed groups operating in the Great Lakes region such as the Forces Démocratique de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR), the Palipehutu-Forces National de Liberation (FNL) and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) which continue to attack civilians and United Nations and humanitarian personnel and commit human rights abuses against local populations and threaten the stability of individual States and the region as a whole and reiterates its demand that all such armed groups lay down their arms and engage voluntarily and without any delay or preconditions in their disarmament and in their repatriation and resettlement;


“9.   Stresses the need for the States in the region, within their respective territories, to disarm, demobilize and cooperate in the repatriation or resettlement, as appropriate, of foreign armed groups and local militias, and commends in this regard the robust action of MONUC, acting in accordance with its mandate, in support of the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo;


“10.  Underscores that the governments in the region have the primary responsibility to protect their populations, including from attacks by militias and armed groups and stresses the importance of ensuring the full, safe and unhindered access of humanitarian workers to people in need in accordance with international law;


“11.  Calls upon all States in the region to deepen their cooperation with a view to putting an end to the activities of illegal armed groups, and underlines that these States must abide by their obligations under the Charter of the United Nations to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of their neighbours;


“12.  Urges the international community, non-governmental organizations and civil society to increase humanitarian assistance to civilians affected by displacements and violence from years of protracted conflicts in the Great Lakes region;


“13.  Commends the efforts of the United Nations Organization Missions in the region in accordance with their respective mandates, to protect civilians, including humanitarian personnel, to enable delivery of humanitarian aid and to create the necessary conditions for the voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons;


“14.  Requests the Secretary-General to make recommendations to the Council, as appropriate, on how best to support efforts by States in the region to put an end to the activities of illegal armed groups, and to recommend how United Nations agencies and missions -- UNMIS, MONUC and ONUB -- can help, including through further support the efforts of the governments concerned to ensure protection of, and humanitarian assistance, to the civilians in need;


“15.  Calls upon the countries of the region to continue in their efforts to create conducive conditions for voluntary repatriation, safe and durable integration of refugees and former combatants in their respective countries of origin.  In this regard, calls for commensurate international support for refugees, reintegration and reinsertion of returnees, internally displaced persons and former combatants;


“16.  Calls upon the countries of the region to reinforce their cooperation with the Security Council’s Committee and with the Group of Experts established by resolution 1533 in enforcing the arms embargo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to combat cross-border trafficking of illicit small arms, light weapons and illicit natural resources as well as the movements of combatants, and reiterates its demand that the Governments of Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi take measures to prevent the use of their respective territories in support of activities of armed groups present in the region;


“17.  Urges the governments concerned in the region to enhance their cooperation to promote lawful and transparent exploitation of natural resources among themselves and in the region;


“18.  Welcomes the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission and underlines its potential importance to the work of the Security Council in this region;


“19.  Invites the international community, including regional organizations, international financial institutions and relevant bodies of the United Nations system, to support and complement the peacebuilding and development initiatives required to sustain peace, security and stability in the countries of the Great Lakes region;


“20.  Decides to remain seized of the matter.”


Background


When the Security Council met this morning to convene an open debate on “Peace, security and development in the Great Lakes region”, it had before it a letter to the Secretary-General dated 18 January attaching a concept paper for the discussion by the Council President for the month, Augustine P. Mahiga (United Republic of Tanzania) (document S/2006/27).


According to the paper, the open debate would focus on finding appropriate and effective ways of implementing and coordinating the various regional and international initiatives for peace and stability in the Great Lakes region.


The main thrust of the debate would be:  applying the broader United Nations peace and security initiatives for Africa to the Great Lakes region; identifying strategies for linking the United Nations and the Great Lakes region initiatives on conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding; implementing resolutions 1625 (2005), 1631 (2005), 1649 (2005), and the mandate of the Peacebuilding Commission.  It would also deliberate:  ways to support efforts of the countries of the region to transform it into an area of peace, security and political stability;  ways to strengthen democracy, good governance, rule of law, the protection of human rights, reconciliation and the participation of civil society, including women, on issues of peace and security; and ways to strengthen a coordinated response among the countries of the region and with the international community on protection and humanitarian assistance to civilians, including for refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees.


The paper goes on to suggest that the outcome of the debate should be a resolution focusing on:  the relevance of resolutions 1625 (2005), 1631 (2005) and 1649 (2005) to Africa and the Great Lakes region, in particular; the need to create an appropriate mechanism that will enhance practical cooperation between the Security Council and the Peace and Security of the African Union; the significance of the Dar es Salaam Declaration and the Second International Conference on Peace, Security, Democracy, Governance, Human Rights and Development in the Great Lakes Region; and application of the Peacebuilding Commission mandate to conflict situations in the Great Lakes region.


Also before the Council was a report of the Secretary-General on preparations for the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, dated 25 January (document S/2006/46).  It describes the reasons for the postponement of the second summit, which was to have been held in December 2005, and says that the postponement has affected the momentum reached in the Conference process.  The Secretary-General says that every effort should be made by the countries of the region to ensure the convening of the Nairobi Summit as early as possible, to both maintain momentum and to build on the gains and achievements made thus far.


He encourages the Council members to convey a strong message of support for the International Conference and to urge member countries to renew their commitment to respecting the spirit and content of the Dar es Salaam Declaration and undertake every effort to hold the Nairobi Summit and sign the Security, Stability and Development Pact.  It is also pressing that a date for the second Summit be agreed upon and publicized rapidly since this will send a strong and much-needed signal that the process is still on track.


The report says that the International Conference process should be seen as a critical regional approach to peacebuilding.  Following the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission, the Conference represents an excellent opportunity for regional peacebuilding that should not be wasted.  It would be regrettable to allow, at this late stage, loss of momentum after so many resources have been devoted to successfully bringing so many conflicting parties together.  The adoption and the implementation of the proposed Security, Stability and Development Pact could potentially provide the peoples of the region with the durable peace and the economic and social development they greatly deserve.


Statement by Council President


Council President ASHA-ROSE MTENGETI MIGIRO, speaking in her capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania, said that the Great Lakes peace process was an initiative of countries of the region with the support of the United Nations, the African Union and the Group of Friends of the Great Lakes Region.  The initiative was embodied in the Dar es Salaam Declaration adopted at the end of the first International Conference on Peace, Security, Democracy and Development in the Great Lakes Region in November 2004.  The Declaration was a foundation upon which countries of the region sought to build a framework for realizing enduring peace, democratic governance and respect for human rights, economic cooperation and sustainable development.


Recalling the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, she stressed the need to work together to avoid a repeat of such catastrophes and create a better future.  Collective political will was needed to prevent and resolve conflicts, consolidate peace and build institutions of democratic governance, rule of law and respect for human rights.  The Security Council was the key partner in promoting and maintaining peace and security in the region, which faced residual and new challenges.  There was a need to consolidate what had been achieved so far and mobilize the support of the international community in accomplishing those objectives.  The newly established Peacebuilding Commission should focus its early attention on the region, as its countries created the necessary political environment for irreversible peace.


She said the countries of the region were determined to make the Great Lakes process a practical accomplishment.  They were working at the national and international levels to create mechanisms to strengthen mutual confidence and trust as a basis for peace and stability in the region.  Similarly, they had embraced democracy and good governance not only as intrinsic values, but also as necessary for their peaceful coexistence and crucial for their development.  The desirability of a regional approach in that endeavour could not be overemphasized.  The next Summit in Nairobi should codify and adopt those undertakings.  The work of the United Nations Office in Nairobi had been pivotal in preparing for the first Summit and would be equally so for the upcoming one.  The United Republic of Tanzania pledged to work closely with the Security Council and the Secretary-General in implementing the Council’s current mandate in the Great Lakes.


Statements


RODOLPHE ADADA, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Congo, said that the Great Lakes region must be recognized as a zone of peace for development and reconstruction.  It was presently a vast construction site, but looking at recent developments, it was clear that significant progress was being made and taking shape in terms of peace and security.  In Burundi, for example, the transition had led to democratic, free and transparent elections.  The security situation had improved considerably and national reconciliation was ongoing.  The political transition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was going favourably after the organization of the constitutional referendum, and he encouraged all parties there to work tirelessly within the peaceful transition for peace and stability.  In particular, everything must be done to stop the armed groups in the eastern part of the country from jeopardizing the progress.


He called on neighbouring countries to pursue efforts at improving the climate and establishing relations of trust.  That would undoubtedly contribute to resolving the problems of the illicit circulation of small arms and light weapons, alleviate the plight of refugees and displaced persons, eliminate the presence of armed groups on the territories of neighbouring States, and limit the exploitation of natural resources.  In that spirit of mutual trust, his Government had proceeded with the voluntary repatriation of Rwandan refugees and the former Forces armées rwandaises (ex-FAR) to their countries of origin, but the return of refugees and displaced persons was very much linked to international support, economic recovery and peacebuilding in the countries concerned.  He was enthusiastic about such favourable development as the positive evolution that had taken place in the Central African Republic after the elections.


To the Security Council members and the entire international community, he said “make no mistake as to the degree of our commitment” to build a political and economic “space” within the Great Lakes region.  No one was going back on the first Summit; the delay had allowed for more thorough preparations, with a better sense of what was at stake at the second summit.  The flame lit in Dar es Salaam in 2004 continued to light the path and would not be extinguished.


RAYMOND BAYA RAMAZANI, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that the Congolese people had voted overwhelmingly for the draft constitution.  The electoral law had been discussed and would soon be adopted by the two Chambers of the Parliament.  The new national army today had well trained and professional troops for the maintenance of law and order.


He recalled that only last Monday, eight Guatemalan members of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) had been killed in Garamba National Park while pursuing armed groups, for which the Congolese Government expressed its condolences to the Government and people of Guatemala.  That unfortunate incident was proof that the efforts of MONUC were not always successful as illegal armed groups still had the capacity to do harm.  That kind of tragedy strengthened the determination of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to eliminate such groups from within its borders.  A similar incident had taken place in the north, but calm had been restored.


He said the Government welcomed the publication of a list of persons to be subject to sanctions for violating the arms embargo against the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as resolution 1649, which provided for sanctions against those exploiting the country’s natural resources.  Although aware that its relations with neighbouring States had improved, some of them continued to harbour criminals, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had requested their extradition in other forums.  The Congolese Government wished to request the Council to exert pressure on those States to extradite such criminal elements.


The Democratic Republic of the Congo welcomed the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission and hoped it would be one of the first beneficiaries, he said.  The country also welcomed the decision against Uganda by the International Court of Justice over the looting of its natural resources.  The judicial decision, rather than casting a shadow over relations between the two countries, should set the stage for future relations based on the law rather than on force.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo reaffirmed its commitment to participate in establishing the necessary conditions as its people prepared to vote in their future leaders and expected that foreign States would support and not disrupt the process.


MARCO HAUSIKU, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Namibia, said he was cognizant of the fact that conflict in one country could rapidly engulf the entire region because of the social, economic and cultural links that existed between the peoples.  The current trend of conflicts and their complexity had consistently dictated the need for the concerted efforts of all stakeholders, which, in turn, paved the way for sustainable economic development.  While there had been commendable regional progress, such as the holding of elections in Burundi and the referendum in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, continuing instability in other parts of the region undermined peace efforts overall.  The security situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo remained a serious concern.  The presence of militia and foreign armed groups there was a deplorable situation, threatening the civilian population and increasing violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.


He urged the countries of the region to strengthen bilateral cooperation and commit themselves fully to the effective implementation of the African Union Non-Aggression and Common Defence Pact, adopted in January 2005, as a regional security mechanism for conflict prevention, management and the peaceful settlement of disputes.  The process of disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation in that part of the region could only succeed through the cooperation of all countries there.  He, therefore, reiterated his support for Security Council resolution 1649 (2005) and called for its full and urgent implementation.  Efforts should also be made by neighbouring countries to reach a comprehensive agreement aimed at a long-term strategy for sustainable peace and development and mutual understanding.  In that regard, he called for the speedy implementation of resolution 1631 (2005), which urged international organizations to contribute to strengthening the African regional and subregional organizations’ capacity.


In order to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable peace, he said that all efforts should be made to ensure women’s full participation in peace negotiations and the implementation of post-conflict strategies.  He reiterated his commitment to the full implementation of Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.  The first International Conference on Peace and Security, Democracy and Development in the Great Lakes Region in November 2004 had been an opportunity for the countries of the region to devise effective ways and means of finding durable solutions to their problems.  He regretted the postponement of the second such summit and hoped it could be convened soon. He looked forward to the contributions of the new Peacebuilding Commission towards achieving durable peace and sustainable development in the Great Lakes region.  The world community should continue to support the African people in their quest for sustainable peace and development.  In that context, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposal to support the 10-year capacity-building plan for the African Union.


MOMPATI S. MERAFHE, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Botswana, said there could be no doubt that the region had great potential for development and economic prosperity if only peace could be given a chance.  The restoration of peace in the Great Lakes should also have a positive impact on the prospects for economic growth and development in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and Africa as a whole.  It would open greater opportunities for the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).


There could be no doubt that the people of the area had a common history and a shared future, he said.  In that context, they called upon the militia groups that had so far refused to join the peace process and continued to be a source of instability and mayhem to disarm and join the movement towards peace.  They could do that by accepting to live under, and participate in, an alternative order based on tolerance, consensus, compromise and democracy.  The time had come for the Council to send a clear message to the militias that it could no longer tolerate continued defiance of the collective international will.  The international community had a crucial role to play in facilitating the development of the will to peace, to help usher in a new political dispensation in that troubled region.  Given the area’s violent history, the people in the Great Lakes needed assurances that entering into agreements on the governance issues outlined in the Dar es Salaam Declaration would not be tantamount to surrendering their own security and that of generations to come.


He said the international community must demonstrate the readiness to support a comprehensive peace agreement by providing resources to underpin such an agreement, he said.  That meant providing financial, material and technical resources for the resettlement of returning refugees and internally displaced persons, the reintegration of former combatants, the provision of education, health and potable water and above all assistance in building and strengthening institutions.  Consistent and assured support in the rehabilitation of infrastructure and the re-activation of the economies of the countries of the region should go a long way in reinforcing the process of economic cooperation and regional integration.  A comprehensive package of assistance would be the greatest peace dividend the international community could provide to assist in consolidating a lasting political settlement.


GERHARD PFANZELTER ( Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union had contributed substantially in political and humanitarian ways to bring peace, security, democracy and development to the Great Lakes region. It had contributed more than 80 per cent of the required finances for the election process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and had recently begun supporting crucial restructuring of the security sector.  The European Union’s security advisory and assistance mission to the country, EUSEC DR Congo, had begun operating in June 2005 and was now launching the EUSEC-FIN project to help Congolese authorities reform their military administration of paying soldiers’ salaries.  The European Union’s civilian police, EUPOL Kinshasa, was helping Congolese officials to set up, train and monitor on a daily basis an Integrated Police Unit in charge of protecting State institutions and central political leaders.


Despite such successes, recent events suggested that progress towards peace continued to be fragile, he said.  The security situation in Burundi remained problematic as did the situation of the National Liberation Forces (FNL).  Burundi would need continued international assistance after the gradual and careful phase-out of the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB).  In addition, delays in adopting electoral law in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were thwarting efforts to hold elections and conclude the transitional period by June 2006.  The elections would mark just the beginning of a new, democratic nation.  Still, a solution was urgently needed to the problem of negative forces -- whether Congolese or foreign -- in the country.  Sustainable progress would require good governance, the rule of law, security, regional cooperation and an environment conducive for reconstruction, as well as international support, particularly for reconstruction and institution-building during the post-transition phase.


LOUIS MICHEL, Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid of the European Commission, said there was no development without peace or stability, but there was no peace or stability without development.  The latter point was the basis of the work of the Commission he represented.  The political contribution of the Europeans to bring peace to the region of the Great Lakes had been so important for development throughout Africa.  The Commission had an ongoing commitment to seek a final solution for the crises and conflicts, which, for too long, had affected the region so rich in potential.  The Commission had no objectives other than peace, security and the welfare of the people, but that could only be achieved by rebuilding States and their capacity to protect their populations with institutions capable of fulfilling the major State functions, such as access to education and justice.  His policy, in addition to the provision of humanitarian assistance, had always been based on the conviction that poverty would be vanquished only by strong, impartial Governments that encouraged vigilant civil societies to take full responsibility for their destinies.  The Commission had spent more than $1.3 billion on the region since 2002, in such key areas as governance, electoral processes, and the rebuilding of services and basic infrastructure.  But, those gains needed to be consolidated and additional funds were needed.


Until the end, he stressed, the peace processes would remain fragile, and the promise of a strong central Africa would always run the risk of being ground down by individual conduct, irresponsible behaviour, and sterile quarrels.  His commitment would have to remain unshakable to overcome such difficulties.  The terrible effects of the genocide in Rwanda were starting to calm down, and new economic impetus was providing hope for new generations who knew they could fashion a future of prosperity and justice.  A few months ago, the people of Burundi had elected a parliament, forging conditions for true democracy.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a delicate process was being completed little by little.  The population had received voting cards, providing a sense of identity and an idea of belonging to one nation, one people, and on 18 December 2005, more than 60 per cent had gone to vote for the first time in more than 40 years, because they knew, instinctively, that they held the keys to turn history around.


Until the end, the international community must help and encourage them and their leaders, so that the electoral timetables were observed, he said.  Those countries in the centre of Africa had a shared destiny.  The regional dimension was fundamental.  Energies must come together on shared themes based on the European principle that it was by sharing problems, interests and resources that peace and prosperity could be attained.  He was pleased to see the will of the countries of the region giving new momentum to their economic development.  He firmly regretted the wanton and inhuman acts perpetrated this week by a number of criminal groups, which were terrorizing and killing the innocent people there.  The Commission would become more involved in a development strategy as an essential factor in preventing conflict and rebuilding States based on the rule of law.


AHMAD BIN ABDULLAH AL-MAHMOUD, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar, said that the extremely complicated demographic and geopolitical realities of the Great Lakes region were well known.  Therefore, it was incumbent on the international community to search for innovative solutions built on a regional approach, as called for in the First International Conference on Peace, Security, Democracy and Development in the Great Lakes Region, held in Tanzania in 2004.  The question that remained was to what extent, and how, could the United Nations and the international community assist the countries of the Great Lakes region in the implementation of the Dar es Salaam vision. 


He said that, while the successes of the United Nations in bringing about stability in the region were great, so were the existing challenges.  It was necessary to address the issue with more realism, work to consolidate the gains that had been achieved so far, and to explore various avenues to face up to future challenges, even if that meant a more robust United Nations field presence, including peacekeeping forces. 


Although the current preoccupation was with questions of peace, security, democracy and good governance, there were other aspects of equal importance included in the vision of the Dar es Salaam Declaration, namely economic development and regional integration.  Responsibility for those two aspects exceeded the Council’s mandate, and involved other stakeholders, such as international financial institutions and donor countries.  Convinced that the countries of the South could shoulder their share of the responsibility for the development of the South, the Emir of Qatar had undertaken the initiative of establishing the Development Fund for the South.  It was hoped that, when it became operational, the Fund would contribute to the economic development and regional integration of the Great Lakes region.


He added that the Peacebuilding Commission represented a suitable mechanism to assist countries emerging from conflicts in preserving peace and achieving sustainable development.  It would also prevent them from sliding back into the throes of conflict.


PETER BURIAN ( Slovakia) said there had been some very encouraging political developments in the region in recent months, including the democratic elections in Burundi and the constitutional referendum in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The latter event had opened the door to a development similar to that of Burundi, and, again, the United Nations had played a significant role in the referendum’s success.  Those instances of democratic decision-making, so rare in the region in the past, today took place peacefully.  That was proof of the political maturity of the peoples of both countries, and served as a beacon of hope in the grim reality of the current situation in the Great Lakes.  Two crucial elections were expected this year in the region.  A strong message should be sent to the peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda: the international community would follow the elections in those countries closely and with high expectations.  High turnout and peaceful conduct would be the best answer to those who sought advantage through insecurity and violence. 


He said he was deeply concerned about the recent instances of renewed fighting in Northern Kivu and Katanga, and especially the attack of 23 January against the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).  Those incidents had clearly shown the “extreme volatility” of the eastern part of the country.  He welcomed the joint efforts of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and MONUC to tackle the problems there, but that seemed insufficient.  One outstanding issue was the inhuman campaign of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which had been ignored by the international community for a long time.  He noted the efforts by the Ugandan Government to tackle the problem, but innocent civilians continued to be killed and children continued to be abducted.  In addition, new patterns were emerging in the campaign, including attacks against humanitarian workers seeking to help civilians in their deplorable living conditions, and against international forces on the ground seeking to protect the peace.  The primary responsibility to protect lay with the Governments, but a secondary responsibility lay with the international community.  Robust diplomacy was needed in the current situation, and the international response to the crisis must be coordinated.


He said Slovakia was ready to support initiatives of the international community, in cooperation with the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and the Sudan, which would identify possible measures to be taken by the Security Council to eliminate the LRA’s activities.  The problem of the LRA was clearly a regional one, and as such, must be addressed regionally.  Intensified cooperation of the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Uganda, therefore, was necessary.  The situation in the Great Lakes, overall, was extremely complex, requiring a comprehensive response.  Nationally, fighting corruption and implementing good governance were an imperative.  Regionally, cooperation must be stepped up and efforts should be accelerated to prepare for a second summit.  Internationally, there was a clear responsibility to provide assistance in tackling the major problems of the region, notably the problem of refugees and internally displaced persons.  Questions of development and respect for human rights also needed further global attention.  Last, but not least, the world community bore a major responsibility in elaborating and implementing post-conflict strategies once the transition was concluded. 


ANDREY DENISOV (Russian Federation), noting that African issues were at the centre of the Council’s attention on an ongoing basis, said that recent developments clearly indicated that the most important way to prevent conflicts was to strengthen the rule of law and develop democracy and good governance.  The greatest difficulties arose in settling post-conflict situations, establishing the rule of law and reintegrating former combatants.  Countries in the Great Lakes region, especially the Democratic Republic of the Congo, were threatened by Congolese and other illegal foreign groups that were destabilizing them and acquiring a greater cross-border character.


He stressed the need for serious assistance from the international community, in order to consolidate the peace process in Burundi and make it irreversible.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the leadership’s priority was to accelerate the establishment of the constitutional and legal bases for the elections scheduled for 2006 and to eradicate the illegal armed groups operating in the eastern part of the country.  It was exceedingly important to establish greater cooperation and confidence-building among the Governments of Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, and to deepen the cooperation among those neighbouring States.  Stabilizing the region and creating conditions for development depended on conducting an objective analysis of the Dar es Salaam Declaration.  The Russian Federation supported the draft resolution to be adopted at the end of the present meeting.


ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ ( Denmark) said that the progress in the transitional process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was encouraging, because peace and stability there was considered to be a key factor in attaining peace and stability throughout the region.  Respect for sovereignty, non-interference and closer cooperation between individual States in the region were other key factors.  She hoped the second International Conference would take place as soon as possible.  The atrocities and criminal behaviour by militias and armed groups operating in the region continued to threaten regional stability.  The countries in the region must take measures to prevent the use of their respective territories in support of the activities of armed groups, and they must combat the cross-border trafficking of illicit arms, illicit resources and the movement of combatants, by strictly enforcing the arms embargo applied on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The link between the illegal exploitation of natural resources, the illegal trade in those resources, and the proliferation and trafficking of arms was also fuelling and exacerbating the regional conflicts. 


She, therefore, urged the countries in the region to enhance their cooperation to promote lawful and transparent use of natural resources.  She also stressed the need for protection of the civilian population, for which Governments had the primary responsibility.  They also had the primary responsibility to ensure the full, safe and unhindered access of humanitarian workers to people in need.  In order to secure long-term stability and respect for the rule of law, all States concerned must take action to bring to justice the perpetrators of grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.  All States should also cooperate with international criminal courts to assure the apprehension and surrender of suspects.  Where the United Nations was engaged, it should assist States in that endeavour.  Through the combined effort of the countries in the region, the United Nations and the African Union, the various conflicts in the reign had now “turned a critical corner” towards resolution.  She encouraged enhanced African “ownership” and participation in conflict management.  The Council should explore how best to support ongoing efforts to develop the African security architecture and work closely with the African Union in that regard. 


RICHARD SEZIBERA, Special Envoy of the President of Rwanda for the Great Lakes, said his country was encouraged by the progress of the political process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Many of the pillars of the 1999 Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement had slowly, but surely, been realized.  The war involving many States had stopped, and instead of confrontation and conflict, countries in the region were now exploring avenues of increased cooperation.  The Congolese people had a new political dispensation and were involved in a process that would further cement it, as they moved beyond the transitional arrangements agreed on at Sun City, South Africa, and established structures reflecting the will of the people.  The prospects for lasting peace, deepened stability and shared prosperity were better now than they had been at any other moment since the 1994 genocide.  The region and the rest of the international community needed to work together to consolidate the gains in peace and security, while also laying a solid groundwork for sustained and sustainable shared prosperity.


To do that effectively, however, there was a need to address the unfinished business of the Lusaka Process, he said.  Many of the building blocks for regional peace as addressed by that process had been put in place, but unfortunately there still remained one key impediment to lasting peace: the presence of genocidal forces and other armed groups in the region, whose sole reason for being was continued destabilization.  Until and unless the people of the region were freed of the fear, tyranny and attacks of those forces calling themselves the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), LRA, Palipehutu-Forces nationales de libération (FNL) and other armed groups currently sowing desolation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and the rest of the region, the emerging peace would continue to be fragile and development would remain a distant dream.  Rwandans continued to ask themselves why, for 11 years now, they had to continue to live under the shadow of genocide.  They wished to know why the Security Council had not dealt decisively with the threat posed by the forces of genocide.  They questioned why the Sanctions Committee and the Group of Experts established under resolution 1596 (2005) had not yet tackled the flow of arms and other supplies to those groups with the seriousness it deserved.


An important building block in the emerging architecture of peace was the International Conference on Peace, Security and Development in the Great Lakes Region, he said.  The first summit in November 2004 had provided a vision for a region transformed from the theatre of incessant conflict into one of shared prosperity.  It also provided a road map for how that transformation could occur.  Rwanda hoped that the postponed second summit would take place as expeditiously as possible.  As the region worked towards the signing of a peace, stability and development pact, the key principles of ownership of both the process and outcomes by the region -- sustained international partnership and inclusion, which were the pillars of the conference process -- would continue to be critical.  It was also important to reaffirm the link between the peace and security, good governance, and economic development.  Peace and security processes not anchored by good internal governance practices and sustained growth and poverty reduction were fragile indeed.


LAM AKOL AJAWIN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Sudan, said he was seriously committed to implementing the Peace Agreement for the Sudan and to making that a reality, not merely in the south, but throughout the territory of the Sudan.  That would have a favourable affect on peace and stability in the Great Lakes region and the continent, as a whole.  The region in the heart of Africa had suffered a number of conflicts and wars.  The Sudan, as an integral part of that region, had certainly been influenced by all positive and negative developments there.  Hence, its participation in all meetings concerning the region was an imperative.  The adoption in 2004 of the Dar es Salaam Declaration was of critical importance, as that programme covered all priority areas for action, including the establishment of lasting peace through regional efforts aimed at ending conflicts and establishing mechanisms to monitor and prevent them.  He was optimistic.  Only through collective regional and international cooperation towards consolidating lasting peace would the prevailing mistrust disappear. 


He said he welcomed the international community’s contributions towards strengthening national and regional capacities, particularly that of the African troops, through financing and equipment.  They must be able to shoulder their responsibilities in ending conflicts and disputes.  But, there were other pressing concerns, namely, strengthening the principle of democracy and good governance, which underpinned development in the region.  Also critical was the need to combat the illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons, and to ensure that those arms did not circulate among non-State actors.  Cross-border crime must also be eradicated.  Those steps would strengthen trust among the States of the region and help turn the page of history towards an end to the conflicts.  That would also allow the “exploitation” of natural resources for development and the undertaking of joint projects for economic cooperation.  The draft before the Security Council today should contain a timeframe and monitoring mechanism for its implementation, based on the priorities it established. 


KAREL DE GUCHT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, said that most African countries had found themselves within artificially drawn borders, struggling with the heritage of colonialism and pressed to take sides in the cold war.  In those days, local conflicts were fuelled by the antagonism between the communist world and the western countries.  The fall of the Berlin wall, however, did not bring the expected peace and stability to the continent.  On the contrary, there was a widespread impression that the strategic importance of Africa was diminishing as the power contest of the cold was over.  Moreover, that lack of outside interest made unrestrained conflict all the more possible, as was the case in Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Sudan and, above all, in the Great Lakes area, where an African regional war of unseen proportions had left 4 million victims in the Congo region alone, adding to the genocide in Rwanda and the decade-long strife in Burundi.  Those conflicts, together with the limited capacity of many African States, greatly reduced the development prospects of the whole continent.  While Asia was lifting itself rapidly out of poverty and Latin America continued to make steady progress, the situation in Africa was quite disturbing.


He said that a “real and sustainable take-off” of the African continent as a whole would only succeed if lasting peace and stability was established in the Great Lakes region.  It was an illusion to think that it was possible to develop a continent, while its heart was engulfed in conflict and poverty.  The Great Lakes region, and the [Democratic Republic of the] Congo, in particular, had the potential to become the “motor” of African development.  It was of the utmost importance, therefore, that the transition in the [Democratic Republic of the] Congo succeeded, and that the other countries in the region continued their political and economic reconstruction towards the establishment of stable and democratic societies with a responsible leadership eager to build modern State institutions based on the rule of law.  That implied a reappraisal of the donor efforts in Africa.  He encouraged current African efforts to redress poor governance and create the proper conditions for sustainable development.  It was impossible to turn failing States overnight into perfectly governed States, but it was possible to gradually improve and relentlessly enhance performance.


Lasting and sustainable solutions to the challenges at hand had to grow “bottom-up”, from the inside, by empowering civil society and the emerging political class to fully assume their newly recovered responsibilities, he said.  The international community must redirect its attention from the abstract level of vague policy recommendations to the concrete level of effective implementation on the ground, for the benefit of the people whose fate was the ultimate object of its concerns.  For any development to have a reasonable chance of success, armed conflict must cease; the security of a people must be assured; and the rule of law must be guaranteed.  Peace could only be assured when armies were integrated; the military personnel were decently paid; police forces were well organized; and the judiciary were properly functioning.  The regional approach taken by the Security Council was the right one.  He commended it for its adoption of resolution 1625 (2005), as well as for the text it was expected to adopt today.  Long-term stability in Central Africa required a regional approach -- a growing pool of democratic countries with inclusive Governments, stable institutions and functioning judiciaries.


FREDERIK RACKE ( Netherlands), Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, associating himself with statement by the European Union, congratulated the Government of Burundi’s successful completion of the transition and elections, saying that, hopefully, it would serve as an example for the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He also noted that Burundi had joined the Tripartite Commission, now called Tripartite Plus,and urged the continuation of that mechanism. 


However, the postponement of the Great Lakes Conference Summit, which was to have taken place in Nairobi last month, had affected the Conference’s credibility.  He expressed the need for strong leadership to be shown by the presidency of the Conference, held by United Republic of Tanzania, to ensure that momentum was not lost.  Countries of the Region were also urged to honour commitments made in the 2002 Dar es Salaam Declaration, and to prepare seriously for the Nairobi summit to adopt a security, stability and development pact for the countries of the Great Lakes Region.


He said the briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, highlighted the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in the Sudan and the Transitional process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  LRA activities impacted the civilian populations of those countries, as well as that in northern Uganda.  Hopefully, arrest warrants for five LRA leaders, issued by the International Criminal Court, would be executed soon, to prevent further atrocities.  Meanwhile, countries already involved in the peace process should develop an internationally supported strategy to end the conflict, in cooperation with the Ugandan Government.  “We believe the worsening detrimental effects of the LRA’s activities for regional peace and security warrant attention by the United Nations Security Council,” he added.


ALBERTO D’ALOTTO ( Argentina) noted that a more decisive collaboration among Governments in the Great Lakes region, coupled with efforts of the African Union and other multilateral organs, had contributed greatly to the establishment of a democratically elected Government in Burundi and the progress towards democratic elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Other contributing factors included the organization of international conferences, such as that on the Peace, Security, Democracy and Development in the Great Lakes Region, in Dar es Salaam in November 2004; greater cooperation between the Security Council and regional organizations; and assistance from donor countries and non-governmental organizations.


To guarantee international peace and security, the Peacebuilding Commission should facilitate the creation of stable institutions, reconstruction and development of countries in post-conflict situations.  Also, nations should ensure systematic punishment of human rights violators, or in the absence of appropriate national, legal mechanisms, seek the help of international tribunals to do so.  Granting amnesty for grave violations of human rights as a strategy to end conflicts would not lead to long-time, positive results; lasting peace could not be reached without bringing an end to the culture of impunity and promoting reconciliation within society.


Argentina was committed to defending those ideals within the Security Council and supported the draft resolution prepared by United Republic of Tanzania.  Countries of the region were also urged to finalize preparations for the second summit on the Great Lakes region, with a view to adopting a security, stability and development pact.


KENZO OSHIMA ( Japan) commended the encouraging progress made in the peace processes in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, such as the holding of general elections and the successful conduct of a referendum on a draft constitution.  However, armed groups continued to pose a serious threat to security and the nascent democratic processes, in the form of the continuing resistance of the FNL in Burundi and foreign armed groups and local militias in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The recent tragic incident in the latter country, involving the killing of MONUC peacekeepers by suspected LRA fighters, and the attacks by rebels in North Kivu, showed yet again how dangerously fragile the situation remained.


The threat posed by armed groups was not confined to the borders of one country, but was already regional in dimension and fast becoming more potent, he said.  It was, therefore, imperative that, to be effective in dealing with those armed groups, the countries in the region put in place greater cooperation.  For example, while MONUC was assisting the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in implementing disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and the repatriation of armed combatants, the cooperation of Rwanda and Burundi in tackling that issue was also critically important.  To deal effectively with the menace posed by the LRA, there should be closer cooperation among the countries in which the group was active.  In the context of the LRA, Japan hoped that the Government of Uganda would further strengthen its efforts to improve the security and humanitarian situation in the northern part of the country.


While the issue of armed groups was serious and required urgent measures, there were other equally pressing problems for which cooperation among the countries of the Great Lakes must also be strengthened, he said.  Those countries were expected to intensify their own efforts to build mutual confidence, which would enable them to address issues of common interest, including by expanding the framework of cooperation in the humanitarian areas, such as the return of refugees and in the management and control of natural resources.


He said that his country’s approach to cooperation with African States in matters of conflict resolution and peacebuilding, as well as in development cooperation, was to respect, as a matter of principle, the ownership of the process and outcomes by the African countries themselves.  Where there was a lack of ownership, there was little chance of a reliable and sustainable outcome.  The principle of ownership should apply, not only to the efforts to individual States, but also to cooperative regional efforts.  The Great Lakes Region Conference should foster that sense of both individual and regional ownership in resolving problems and promoting mutual confidence and regional resiliency.


EMYR JONES PARRY ( United Kingdom) expressed his condolences to the families of the victims of the Guatemalan peacekeepers killed in the attack against MONUC.  Their tragic killing had highlighted the need to enforce the arms embargo and intensify the sanctions against the violators.  The brutality and chaos that illegal arms groups inflicted on civilians must be stopped.  Robust military operations should be accompanied by close cooperation with the Governments concerned, to cope with armed groups that respected no borders.  He urged Governments to take the necessary steps to better protect civilians, including by bringing abusers to justice and improving border security to prevent illegal arms flows and the exploitation of natural resources -- the lifeblood of armed groups.  Insurgencies in one country crossed borders and spread to neighbouring countries. 


He stressed that everything should be done to help the Governments concerned, such as Uganda, the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to protect their civilians and deal with the treat undermining regional peace and security.  The United Nations agencies in the region and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had an important role to play, and that should be reinforced.  Ways in which the international community could assist should be identified, and today’s resolution requested the Secretary-General to make recommendations in that regard.  Dealing with illegal armed groups was one challenge in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but there were others.  The positive results in the referendum in December had showed the desire of the Congolese to complete the transition to democracy.  He urged the Government to meet the expectations of its people, maintain the political momentum, and ensure that the timetable, envisaged for the elections before 30 June, was met. In parallel, he urged faster progress in reforming the security sector and ending corruption and impunity.  The international community stood ready to assist.  


The achievements of the Burundians in successfully completing their transition should be saluted, he said.  He stood ready to support the new Government of Burundi as it established itself and its policies.  Shared interests were best served if withdrawal of the international engagement was gradual.  The United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB), in consultation with the Burundian Government, should draw on past experience, such as the successful transitions under way in Timor-Leste and Sierra Leone.  He noted the relevance of today’s discussion to the recently established Peacebuilding Commission, and he saluted the role played by the United Republic of Tanzania and Denmark in its creation, and the role they would both play as founding members.  The Commission itself would play an important role in providing advice on how States in the Great Lakes region and beyond could complete the transition from peacebuilding to sustainable reconstruction, institution building, the rule of law and development.  He welcomed the text of today’s draft resolution, which he would be proud to support.


Upon resumption of the meeting in the afternoon, ANNE LEAHY ( Canada) urged the 11 countries in the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region to finalize the Pact on Security, Stability and Development and hold their summit as early as possible.  She also welcomed those nations’ future priority commitments to bring peace to the region and their future course of action.  The leaders of the Great Lakes region were responsible for ensuring lasting peace and for respecting the victims of the humanitarian crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in northern Uganda.  She supported the reference in Security Council draft resolution 1625 to the provisions contained in resolution 1649 (2005) that called for an immediate end to destabilizing activities of militias and foreign armed groups in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


She pointed to the atrocities perpetrated by the LRA in northern Uganda, saying the Army was a tragedy for Ugandans, particularly women and children at risk, and was hindering the United Nations mission in the region.  She also called on the Security Council to include the northern Uganda situation in its agenda and to consider passing a resolution that dealt with regional destabilization caused by the Army.  Further, she urged the Council to ensure implementation of measures taken concerning war crimes and crimes against humanity, including monitoring and implementation of resolutions on Darfur.  She also called for an end to impunity for atrocities, sexual aggression and sexual violence, which still persisted.  She strongly supported efforts to build independent and reliable judicial institutions and called upon all the region’s countries to cooperate with and support the International Criminal Court in its investigations of crimes against humanity.


ANTOINETTE BATUMUBWIRA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Burundi, said it was time to ask the meeting to think about the victims of the tragedies that had occurred in the region.  For the past few years, it had been marked by massive violations of the right to life and unacceptable stoppages and regression, following promises for democratic progress.  Today’s meeting was so important at a time when several countries on the ground were making undeniable progress and developing foundations for peace and democracy.  Countries formerly in conflict were in transition or emerging from conflict and building peace now.  They deserved international support.  With the adoption of resolutions 1291 and 1304, the Security Council had played a critical role in organizing the International Conference on the Great Lakes, which culminated in the adoption of the Dar es Salaam Declaration on peace, security and development.


She said that, through that Declaration, the countries in the region had espoused a set of common principles and protocols, to which they were committed in the interest of peace, security and development in the region.  Having done their part, the countries in the region were now asking the international community to declare the region a zone of peace and development and to develop for that purpose a specific fund for reconstruction.  Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be deemed “zone number 1”.  Those three countries had experienced interconnected conflicts, and their efforts towards peace would need support until their situations were safe and stable, particularly the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Indeed, that situation threatened to topple all that had been achieved.


After 12 years of conflict, Burundi had assumed its place in the international community, she said.  That was not an end, but a stage along the way to durable peace and sustainable development.  The international community’s response to that progress had been encouraging, and she reiterated her Government’s commitment to maintaining the momentum and strengthening its resolve to build peace in the exercise of true democracy.  Burundi must now urgently take up the challenges of reconstruction and development.  Satisfying the minimum socio-economic needs of its people every day would bring more progress towards peace and stability.  Twelve years of lethal conflict and instability had taken their toll.  The general rate of poverty was at 68 per cent, which had naturally eroded the country’s social and economic infrastructure.  The conflict had also undermined the provision of education and health services, and food insecurity abounded, exacerbated by weather conditions in some parts of the country.  The country also faced a high incidence of HIV/AIDS, as well as a terrible debt load.


In response, she said, her Government had evolved an action made, which put the Millennium Development Goals at its centre.  A donors’ conference in February should allow for some urgent actions and quick impact projects to alleviate the population’s terrible needs.  Another donors’ conference in September would produce further results.  Hopefully, the international support would be geared to Burundi’s specific needs and be based on seeing Burundi triumph in upholding those shared values of peace, stability and development.  She welcomed the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission, which was a very encouraging sign of the will of the international community to promote, on a priority basis, greater solidarity and international cooperation, leading to a substantial increase in assistance to countries emerging from conflict.


GEORGES REBELO CHICOTI, Deputy Minister for External Relations of Angola, said that the successful holding of the constitutional referendum in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the August 2005 presidential elections ending the transitional period in Burundi were clear signs of the commitment of the countries of the region to achieve peace, democracy and development in conformity with the goals of the International Conference on the Great Lakes.  Angola, however, was deeply concerned by the continuation, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, of atrocities committed by criminal groups responsible for hundreds of summary executions, rapes, beatings and hostage takings.


Commending the actions by the Congolese national army and MONUC against those criminal gangs, he said those actions represented a sound lesson for United Nations peacekeeping operations, as they gave a clear indication of the challenge facing the international community and the will of a nation to live in peace.  The sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Democratic Republic of the Congo must be respected and preserved.


He said that in the three-and-a-half years of peace in post-conflict Angola, its people had experienced the strategic priorities of the Government of Unity and National Reconciliation aimed at the social and productive reintegration of demobilized soldiers and people displaced during the war, improvement in the delivery of basic social services to people throughout the country, and macroeconomic stabilization.  As a result of those efforts, tolerance and democratic cordiality had been re-established between the political parties, and Angola was proceeding rapidly with the organization of free, fair and transparent elections following approval by the National Assembly of the electoral package in July 2005 and the establishment of the National Electoral Commission.


SIMBARASHE S. MUMBENGEGWI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Zimbabwe, said that the achieving peace in the African Great Lakes region was the linchpin for realizing peace in many parts of the continent.  Conflicts in the Great Lakes had a heavy negative impact on neighbouring countries and generally hampered wider sustainable development and regional integration efforts.  He added that the success of any peace process rested on the commitment of the leaders of the countries concerned.  The extent of such political commitment also reflected the level of trust those leaders had in each other.


At the same time, he cautioned that political commitment was just one of the steps towards ensuring lasting peace.  Another was to seriously address the root causes of the conflicts, which had long been identified as a region-wide lack of development.  The international community had a huge role to play in that regard, he said, commending the progress made thus far towards ending conflicts and boosting development in the region.  He reminded the Council that Africa, nevertheless, fell short on the resources needed to build in and maintain the mechanisms that would ensure lasting peace in conflict areas.


He, therefore, welcomed the continued efforts by the United Nations and the international community to support the peace process and post-conflict reconstruction under way in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda.  Particularly regarding the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he stressed the urgent need to help the Government hold free, fair and transparent elections and prepare for the return of refugees.  Resources were also needed to continue to improve institutions and infrastructure of that country.  Burundi’s new elected Government also needed visible, predictable and concerted international support aimed at laying the groundwork for sustainable development, he added.


NANA EFFAH-APENTENG ( Ghana) said that now, more than ever, sustainable peace in the region seemed very much in reach.  Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had taken their first brave steps towards a new era of democratic governance and enduring stability.  The Dar es Salaam Declaration was a bold attempt to tackle, head on, the issues that constituted the foundation for lasting stability and sustainable development in the region.  It was on the basis of an agreement between the concerned parties that it was possible to resolve the threats posed by the continued activities of the armed groups and militias, such as the FDLR, the Palipehutu-FNL, and the LRA, and bring an end to the atrocities committed against local populations and United Nations personnel.  The death of eight Guatemalan “blue helmets” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had underscored the imperative need for forceful action to counteract the LRA’s outrageous and violent conduct.


He commended the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda for their very constructive engagement with the militias, leading to the peaceful repatriation of some FDLR members to Rwanda.  He also supported the ongoing political and military pressure being exerted on such forces through joint operations by the Congolese Government and MONUC.  In the same vein, he welcomed the initiatives of the Tripartite Plus Joint Commission, comprising Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, to increase dialogue among the countries of the region.  He, therefore, endorsed the Secretary-General’s plea to the Council to convey a strong message of support for the second International Conference on the Great Lakes region.  He urged the parties to renew their commitment to respecting both the spirit and letter of the Dar es Salaam Declaration and to undertake every effort to convene the Nairobi Summit and sign the security, stability and development pact.


Clearly, a regional approach involving African ownership and international partnership needed to be enhanced, he said.  Implementation of resolution 1625 (2005) on conflict prevention could be applied to the situation in the Great Lakes region.  In a wider context, the burgeoning cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union, under Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter, should also be enhanced.  He, therefore, called for strengthened coordination and communication between the two in mediation and peacekeeping efforts in the Great Lakes region.  Aligned to that concept of practical cooperation was the need to ensure that the time frame for the international community’s coordinated intervention in crises identified in the region was shortened.  The Burundi peace process was a classic case, which provided a “maiden and golden” opportunity for the Peacebuilding Commission to exercise its mandate in the transition from war to peace.  Similarly, the Democratic Republic of the Congo could be considered by the Commission, in the event of the successful completion of its electoral timetable.


JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE ( France) said peace, democracy and development were at stake in the Great Lakes.  The international community had devoted a great deal of effort to promoting peace in the region.  The efforts of the African Union were well known, as were those of South Africa and the United Republic of Tanzania, which had spared no effort in the noble cause of peace in the Great Lakes.  However, all of that remained extremely fragile and many obstacles remained to be removed.  While associating itself with the statement made on behalf of the European Union, France had a few additional observations to make.


The elections set for 30 June in the Democratic Republic of the Congo must be carried out properly, he stressed.  While not an end in themselves, they were important, as they met a deep-rooted aspiration for peace and national reconciliation.  The recent Security Council mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo had seen the extent to which the Congolese people awaited the elections.  There was also a need to set up democratic institutions in that country, which lay at the heart of Africa.  A solid and stable Democratic Republic of the Congo was the best guarantee for foreign investment, development and stability in the entire region.  It was also vital that the country have a truly integrated national army that was capable of providing safety and security within the country’s borders.  In addition, there was a need for reconciliation and the rule of law throughout the national territory.


Emphasizing the urgent need to establish peace in Burundi, he said that the country had become a successful example of reconciliation, where the Arusha process must be made permanent.  However, much work remained to be done to improve dialogue among the countries of the Great Lakes.  There was still too much suspicion and distrust among them.  Today, armed groups were a particularly troublesome problem in the region.  Whether or not they were a threat to security, they were the main cause of suffering.  It was also necessary to stop the external support that they enjoyed, which fuelled their activities.  The Security Council must always bear in mind the tragedy of the Rwanda genocide, when the international community had failed to live up to its responsibilities.  The question of protection of civilians was on the minds of all, as women and children remained at the mercy of the LRA in northern Uganda.  The group’s recent killing of eight Guatemalan peacekeepers had given its activities a regional dimension.


WANG GUANGYA ( China) said that, in recent years, despite the continuation of disputes and conflicts in some areas and the constraint to the overall economic and social development, encouraging progress had been achieved as a result of the efforts of the countries and peoples of the region, with the assistance of the international community.  There was a common understanding among all sides that, without the stability of the Great Lakes region, there could be no peace in Africa, and without the prosperity of the region, Africa’s reconnaissance could not be realized.  China supported due attention to the special needs of the region and advocated that the Security Council put the question at the top of its agenda and invest in it more substantially.  The will of the hard-working people of the Great Lakes region for a more stable and prosperous life would yield the anticipated result.  The region was endowed with rich natural resources and, with the situation now moving in a positive direction, it would not be long before full peace was restored and stable development was achieved.


He said that resolving the conflict in the region comprehensively and achieving national reconstruction and political transition required special attention in the following areas:  full respect for the will of the countries concerned; strengthened comprehensive cooperation at the subregional level; and stepped up assistance by the international community.  The political process of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was at a critical juncture, and the preparations for the elections urgently needed international support.  In Burundi’s transition to post-conflict reconstruction, international assistance also remained essential.  Hopefully, the international community and other African regions would continue to render active support to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for its disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme and the election process, and help consolidate peace in Burundi.  It remained a test for all to support the unremitting efforts made by those two countries in striving for peace, stability and economic reconstruction.  China wholeheartedly supported the continued important role of the United Nations in that regard.  The Security Council should also give positive consideration and take actions to satisfy those States’ reasonable requests.


RAPHAEL TUJU, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kenya, describing ethnicity as a curse, said his country had 42 ethnic groups, usually referred to us “tribes”.  Whereas the West had the resources to deal with ethnic tensions, in Africa they could, and sometimes did, degenerate into full-scale civil war or genocide, as had been all too apparent in countries previously perceived as stable, like Rwanda and Côte d’Ivoire.  Since such tensions existed below the surface, Africa must challenge them boldly, rather than in the context of “fire brigade actions”.  The United Republic of Tanzania was one of the few African countries that had managed to build a stable nationhood quite early, a legacy of the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere that all Tanzanians would do well to cherish.


He said that, in region where the rate of relapse of conflict was as high as 50 per cent, the peaceful settlement of a conflict which failed to address its long-term root causes was a shallow solution.  Those who would participate in the Nairobi Summit should be prepared to confront such challenges boldly and with a full appreciation of their roots.  Kenya was working closely with Ibrahima Fall, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Great Lakes, and welcomed the renewal of his mandate.  However, his mandate and role should be projected towards the long term, beyond simple conflict prevention and resolution.


The next concrete steps should be on the humanitarian and social front, he emphasized.  First, it was necessary to create an environment that ensured better protection and welfare for refugees, internally displaced persons and stateless persons.  States must comply with international instruments on human rights, as well as identify, disarm and separate combatants from civilians.  It was also necessary to set up a regional legal framework for the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons and refugees.  It was necessary also to implement the legal framework on property rights of returning internally displaced persons and refugees, as stipulated in article 69 of the Dar es Salaam Declaration.  Finally, it was necessary to work within the region to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian workers and associated personnel, as well as the free and unhindered humanitarian access to persons in need of assistance.


SAM K. KUTESA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uganda, said that the recent progress in peace initiatives clearly indicated that the prospects were greater than ever for transforming the Great Lakes from a zone of conflict to a region of peace, stability, prosperity and cooperation in Africa.  However, the most urgent challenge and the biggest obstacle to peace in the region remained the problem of the negative forces, especially the ADF, FDLR, PRA and LRA.  They continued to cause untold suffering to civilian populations, resulting in excessive loss of lives, humanitarian crises in refugee and internally displaced persons camps and deepening poverty. The LRA had caused massive humanitarian crises with 1.5 million internally displaced persons in northern Uganda and 280,000 Sudanese refugees.


He said the LRA was a well known terrorist group based in southern Sudan and the Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  It had caused thousands of deaths and tremendous suffering to people in northern Uganda and southern Sudan, as well as to wildlife in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  For too long, the Uganda People’s Defence Force had single-handedly fought against the LRA in a two-track policy/strategy combining military pressure and political negotiations based on peace initiatives and an effective amnesty regime, as well as measures to protect civilian population from attacks and abductions.  Although the military campaign had not completely eliminated the LRA threat, it had succeeded in severely weakening it by reducing its ranks from 3,000 to 500 or 600 through defections and capture.


The Government had also embarked on a number of peace initiatives to have the LRA conflict resolved through a negotiated political settlement, he said.  The Amnesty Act (2000) and its implementing Amnesty Commission had been put in place to accommodate those who renounced rebellion and to promote reconciliation.  More than 2,000 LRA rebels had taken advantage of the amnesty provisions.  Major efforts for a negotiated peace settlement originated or supported by the Government since 1994 had included the government initiative led by Betty Bigombe as Minister for Pacification of Northern Uganda (1994); the Carter Center Initiative (1998); the Acholi Religious Leaders Dialogue Initiative (2003); and the Betty Bigombe Initiative (2004).  Unfortunately, due to lack of a political agenda by the LRA and pressure from its external backers, efforts for political negotiations with the LRA had been fruitless.


RONNIE S. SHIKAPWASHA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Zambia, said that his delegation firmly believed that peace and development went hand in hand, because the absence of war did not always guarantee human security and dignity, particularly in places where poverty levels were high.  For the nations of Africa’s Great Lakes region, which, like other former colonial countries, were forced to try to correct the ills of the past and to meet the socio-economic and development needs of the present simultaneously, that meant the international community’s focus should be squarely on both peacebuilding and development initiatives.  To that end, he joined others expressing support for the speedy launch of the new Peacebuilding Commission and pledged to help that body secure peace in the Great Lakes.


He went on to recount Zambia’s own activities aimed at ensuring peace and development in the Great Lakes, including participating in United Nations and African Union peacekeeping missions, and sharing “regional ownership” solutions on the root causes of the Great Lakes myriad and complex social and political realities through membership in the SADC and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).  In the area of democracy and good governance, Zambia had also just successfully completed a review of its electoral laws ahead of this year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.


Commending the Group of Friends and its work, he cautioned that the road to peace was often long and difficult.  He urged the Group, as well as the international community, to stand firm and to work together for a better future for the Great Lakes.  With the second summit on the region fast-approaching, he appealed to the United Nations to maintain its important role in the peace process ahead of the expected launch of a pact on security, stability and development in the Great Lakes.  He also urged the United Nations and the African Union to increase their administrative staff presence in Nairobi.


J.N.K. MAMABOLO ( South Africa) lauded recent progress in the Great Lakes region in reducing tensions.  That included the recent agreement between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda to manage the activity of the LRA in the Haut-Uele province and the subsequent elimination of the Army’s activity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the agreement between the two countries to create a Ugandan Amnesty Commission Office in North Kivu to help disarm and repatriate Ugandan combatants; and the success of Congolese authorities and MONUC in managing Congolese Revolutionary Movement (MRC) elements active in the Kilo and Mongwalu. He also commended the joint efforts of Congolese and Ugandan authorities to disarm and repatriate MRC elements that relocated in Uganda.


Despite such progress, several issues of concern remained, he continued.  For example, the continued presence of the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) and Mayi-Mayi forces in the Kivu was a serious threat to regional stability and the integrity of the Congolese transition to peace and the regional security sector reform and demobilization, disarmament and rehabilitation processes.  He commended the role of MONUC and the National Army to identify strongholds and put military pressure of armed groups to demobilize, disarm and rehabilitate.  In that regard, South Africa was doing its part under MONUC’s command and would continue to support such operations.  The death of eight MONUC soldiers from Guatemala illustrated that greater efforts were needed to ensure regional stability.  He urged States in the region to further strengthen cooperation to end the activities of illegal armed groups.


SAID DJINNIT, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union, said it was encouraging to note that the regional political environment had improved since the Dar es Salaam Summit as a result of the significant progress achieved in peace processes, on the one hand, and through the existing verification and confidence-building mechanisms, on the other.  The African Union welcomed the establishment of the post-transition Government in Burundi and the successful holding of the referendum on the constitution in the Democratic Republic of the Congo laying the basis for general elections by the end of 2006.


He said the African Union had undertaken to contribute to the stabilization of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo through the neutralization and disarmament of the ex-Forces armées rwandaise (ex-FAR) and Interahamwe, among other armed groups operating in the area.  A reconnaissance mission recently dispatched to the area and to neighbouring countries had consulted with various stakeholders on the best ways to assist the Congolese armed forces, in cooperation with MONUC.  The Peace and Security Council would examine the mission’s outcome and was expected to authorize preparatory work for the deployment of an African Union force.


Sustained efforts had been made to generate the necessary regional political support that had subsequently been solemnly stated in the Dar es Salaam Declaration, he continued.  In Dar es Salaam, regional leaders had reaffirmed their ownership of the process, while the international community, particularly the Group of Friends, had pledged continued support.  The African Union remained committed to supporting countries of the region as they prepared for the second Summit in Nairobi.  While expressing its appreciation to the Group of Friends for its support to the preparatory process of the conference, the African Union called on its members to remain committed to the Process beyond the Nairobi Summit.


He stressed that the Great Lakes initiative was a clear illustration of the African Union’s new vision as embodied in its Constitutive Act, the NEPAD Document and the Declaration on the Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa recognizing the interlinkages between peace, security, democracy and development and calling for a unity based not only on geography and common borders but also on political will and common values.  Based on that vision and also inspired by the progress being made in promoting peaceful solutions to the various conflicts afflicting the continent, the African Union had recently embarked on the elaboration of a strategy for post-conflict reconstruction and development.


Presenting the Secretary-General’s report on preparations for the second International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (document S/2006/46), IBRAHIMA FALL, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region, said that, since November 2003, important progress had been made, about which the Council had been regularly informed.  The most important of those events had been the holding of the first summit in Dar es Salaam in November 2004.  Thanks to the momentum it generated, the regional political dialogue undertaken in 2003 had continued.  The framework for regional cooperation had strengthened a climate of trust among the member countries of the Conference, which had helped preparations for the second summit, the Nairobi Summit, which had been delayed until this year.


He said that the first summit had been a milestone, and the comprehensive document of its leaders had offered a “candid diagnosis of the region’s ills” and had agreed on a forward-looking review of peace, security and development by evolving guiding principles and charting a road map for security, stability and development, to be concluded during the second summit.  The declaration had also established a set of achievable mechanisms.  The countries of the region had chosen a number of protocols and priority projects, which were summarized in the present report.  In terms of peace and security, emphasis had been on non-aggression, mutual defence, and peaceful resolution of conflicts. 


A security architecture divided the region into 12 security zones and included, for example, the disarmament of armed groups in the eastern portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he added.  Other priority projects sought to support, harmonize and strengthen regional mechanisms in such areas as combating small arms proliferation, demining and combating transborder organized crime.  Delaying the second summit exposed it to extra costs and risked slowing the momentum, so it was imperative that agreement on a date be reached as soon as possible, he urged.


OSWALDO DE RIVERO ( Peru) noted the difficulty of establishing sustainable democracy in a region where conflicts raged among illegal armed groups for possession of natural resources, and 80 per cent of the population was impoverished.  It was necessary to grant urgent economic assistance to countries suffering from conflict by eliminating debt, increasing official aid, and encouraging private investment to stimulate their economies and make them globally competitive.


International economic assistance was especially needed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to promote stability, peace and democracy in the entire region, he said.  The MONUC must be capable of tackling both national and foreign illegal armed groups, and the country must have an armed national force, as well as a police force to provide civil safety.  It must also be capable of covering its budget and providing minimum public services, if it is to achieve sustainable democracy and quell conflict.


He added that the Council must closely monitor foreign illegal groups, especially the LRA, which was devastating northern Uganda, and was also present in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and southern Sudan. The international community must also monitor the sanctions regime, so that the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with support from MONUC and neighbouring countries, could control traffic in weapons and natural resources.


DON YAMAMOTO (United States) applauding the work of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, said his delegation stood in solidarity with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Force Commander and all those who served in MONUC so courageously and unswervingly.  The United States delegation also offered its prayers and condolences to those members of that Mission who had made the ultimate sacrifice


Deploring the violence and activities of the negative forces that continued to operate in the Great Lakes, he said that after more than a decade they remained a threat to the region.  The United States stood witness to the devastation and human suffering that they caused, including that of more than 425,000 refugees and internally displaced persons.  The United States commended in the highest terms the peoples of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda for their dedication in working together in the Tripartite Plus One Commission.


Underscoring his country’s commitment to the goal of peace and security in the Great Lakes and the whole of Africa, he called on the Security Council to ensure the emergence of a new and vibrant Democratic Republic of the Congo following elections later this year.  There was also a need to stand together with the other countries of the region as they renewed and rededicated their efforts to their endeavours in the pursuit of peace, security stability and development.


ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS ( Greece) said the main countries in conflict in the region -- the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Rwanda -- today stood at varying degrees of transition and might still harbour the potential for renewed violence.  There was a need for an approach that would be sensitive to the particular challenges of the individual conflicts, while also contributing to a comprehensive regional peace.  Despite the existence of peace agreements among the different parties, their implementation was far from self-sustaining.


There had been a gradual realization that achieving peace, stability, security and development in the Great Lakes region should entail a strong regional dimension, he said.  The African Union-United Nations International Conference on the Great Lakes Region was not an event, but a regional approach process, based on confidence-building measures, parallel efforts in security and development, and addressing in synergy common problems.  The upcoming Nairobi Summit should continue in that regional approach.  Long-term peace and stability in the region could only be attained on the basis of respect for territorial integrity, national sovereignty, and the peaceful resolution of outstanding issues.  He was convinced that the International Conference process represented a genuine platform to consolidate and enhance regional peace, without creating cumbersome and overlapping follow-up mechanisms.


The international community, he added, should stand ready to assist African countries in that endeavour.  Setting the foundations of sustainable development in the area, addressing humanitarian and human rights issues, supporting institution-building, combating corruption, and strengthening the rule of law and good governance were crucial issues where the new Peacebuilding Commission, the Bretton Woods institutions and the United Nations system, in general, could prove to be valuable.


FRANCES LISSON ( Australia) said that security and the humanitarian situation in the Great Lakes region were still an international concern.  The activities of the LRA in southern Sudan, northern Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had brought suffering and instability to the region, and displaced millions of innocent people.  Peace within the Great Lakes region could not be reached while militant groups were rampant.  He called on the LRA to cease its acts of violence and cooperate fully with the international community and regional countries to end the conflicts, and for the three concerned Governments to work at promoting regional solutions.


He added that Australia had assisted people of northern Uganda with donations through United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).  It had also contributed towards regional stability through deployment of 15 Australian Defence Force personnel to the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS).  His country supported the recent decision to establish a United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, as well as a stronger and more coordinated role for the United Nations in assisting fragile States negotiate the peacebuilding process.


ALI HACHANI ( Tunisia) said his Government had first proposed the idea of convening an international conference on the Great Lakes region as the appropriate framework for the overall consideration of the regional issues.  Tunisia attached great importance to conflict prevention in Africa through improved coordination and cooperation among United Nations bodies, programmes, specialized institutions, the international financial institutions, and the international community in its entirety, as a means of dealing with the root causes of conflicts in Africa.  The end of a peacekeeping mission did not mean that a sustainable peace had been established.  Long-term peace could only be ensured with the laying of the necessary political and socio-economic foundations.  The Peacebuilding Commission should offer an important framework for that action.


He said that, both in conflict prevention and peacebuilding, the United Nations’ cooperation with regional organizations was very important.  He stressed enhanced cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union, especially to improve the latter institution’s capabilities.  The Great Lakes region had more than 20,000 blue helmets, including from some 20 African countries.  Africa’s efforts to take charge required increased international support. The establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union would certainly help the African States concerned.  Nevertheless, efforts to strengthen collective peacekeeping efforts required the international community’s attention, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, which conferred the responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security on the Security Council.  He reiterated his call on the world community, and especially on the donors, to provide generous humanitarian and economic assistance to allow the concerned populations to “cash in” on the dividends of peace.  The current phase of history would surely show that the Great Lakes region was turning the page towards peace.


AHMED ABOUL-GHEIT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt, said the Council must enhance the roles of relevant parties in implementing the collective vision of countries in the Great Lakes region, based on national priorities for security and development.  The Council should operate through peacekeeping missions in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Sudan, while the Peace and Security Council of the African Union should act as the primary regional body for continental security.  There was also a need to consider socio-economic aspects contributing to sustained peace, which should be addressed through cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union, with special emphasis on quick-impact projects.


He said the Peacebuilding Commission would serve as an institutional focal point for coordination of international and regional efforts to support the transition from conflict to reconstruction and development in the region.  Genuine cooperation was needed between Burundi’s national Government and the United Nations, based on priorities laid down by that country, and international support was necessary for the Democratic Republic of the Congo to complete its transition period.  The Commission was expected to assist countries emerging from conflicts in the Great Lakes region in implementing the Dar es Salam Declaration and other regional and international initiatives aimed at addressing cross-border challenges in the post-conflict environment.


In tackling the situation in the Great Lakes region, he said the international community must focus on conflict prevention and resolution, as well as post-conflict peacebuilding. Confidence-building among the region’s Governments could be accomplished through capacity-building in border management and monitoring; effective channels of communications and exchange of information among national authorities; and coordination of policies for demobilization, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and refugee/internally displaced persons return and resettlement.  Other needed measures included security-sector reform, reinforcement of democracy, transparency and the rule of law.  The international community must also adopt a unified vision in breaking the link between illegal exploitation of natural resources and fuelling of armed conflict in the region, and the link of that menace to the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.


Y.J. CHOI ( Republic of Korea) said that, despite the recent positive developments, the region still faced daunting challenges.  Burundi needed to further consolidate peace and reconciliation and accelerate reconstruction.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, free and democratic elections must be held before the end of the transitional period in June.  In addition, foreign armed groups operating in the country must be disarmed and repatriated to their home countries.  To cope with the persistent instability in the region, the Council had made efforts to resolve existing conflicts and prevent new ones, in close cooperation with the countries of the region and the African Union.  Last year, it adopted resolution 1625 (2005) on the prevention of armed conflict, especially in Africa, and sent a mission to the region to facilitate the peace processes there.


He said that three issues remained most relevant to achieving durable peace, security and sustainable development in the region.  First, the conflicts there should be seen from a regional perspective.  The people of the Great Lakes region were ethnically, culturally and linguistically interlinked.  That meant that an insecure situation in one country directly affected other countries in the region.  Foreign armed groups operating in one country threatened the security, not just of that country, but of neighbouring countries, as well, because they operated across borders.  Accordingly, ensuring peace and security in one country necessitated close cooperation with its neighbours.  Regional problems could best be solved through regional organizations, which had comparative advantages in leading peace processes at the community level.  He welcomed the increasing assumption of responsibility and leadership by the African Union and urged that the cooperation between it and the United Nations be further developed and institutionalized.


Second, peace and security in the region required a focus, not just on peacemaking and peacekeeping, but also on more extended peacebuilding efforts, he said.  Even after a new government was established through democratic elections, a country emerging from conflict remained fragile for some time because of the many challenges it faced, such as weakened national institutions and poverty.  The abrupt disengagement of the international community at that stage could trigger the re-emergence of conflicts.  Third, it was critical to address the root causes of conflicts, in order to prevent their recurrence and maintain a durable peace over the long term.  Although resolving conflicts peacefully was crucial, it was far better to prevent them.  In that regard, it was necessary for the countries in the region to implement long-term economic and social development strategies, with the assistance of the international community.


YOUCEF YOUSFI (Algeria) said that the Dar es Salaam Declaration had clearly identified the causes of endemic conflict and insecurity in the Great Lakes region, among them economic stagnation and aggravated poverty.  It also clearly identified the dangers threatening the region, such as the lack of a regional strategy for the disarmament and repatriation of foreign fighters, the illegal trafficking in small arms and light weapons, HIV/AIDS, as well as the situation of refugees and internally displaced persons.


He said that the 1994 Rwanda genocide, the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the August 2004 Gatumba massacre in Burundi illustrated the repercussions that internal crises could have in neighbouring countries, as well as the need for a regional approach to the roots of conflicts that addressed the promotion of national reconciliation, democracy, good governance, the rule of law, economic and social development and the protection of human rights.


He said that the successful end to the transitional period in Burundi and the preparations for elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo confirmed the positive evolution that marked an encouraging sign for the return of peace and stability for the region.


PAUL BADJI ( Senegal) said that, following a long period of turbulence, the region had entered a positive movement towards peace.  That had been highlighted by the holding in November 2004 of the international conference in Dar es Salaam on the Great Lakes region, whose stability was vital for the entire African continent.  The conference reminded leaders that their people shared a common fate and that they had a responsibility together to overcome the demons and to build, in confidence and calm, good neighbourliness and a common, peaceful future.  Beyond the declaration of good intentions, actions must be taken swiftly to ensure that the commitments sketched out in 2004 led to real achievements.


He said that that was not just an issue for Governments and peoples, but should emanate from a joint initiative with the development partners.  He hoped that the region would enjoy the support of donor countries, as continued international support for the region’s normalization process was critical.  Sight should not be lost of the strategic importance of convening a second international conference on the Great Lakes region, which should be held this year.  In the next stage, when action programmes were adopted, it was important to implement the specific reconstruction zone plan, set forth by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Mr. Fall.  The project would be a mere dream, however, without significant financial support to finance the reconstruction fund aimed at supporting the activities in the specific zones in the region.  Also important was to build on what had been achieved in terms of good governance, democracy, justice, human rights and the rule of law.  Now, more than ever, an early warning capacity must be developed so that threats to peace could be quickly defeated.


FERNAND POUKRE-KONO (Central African Republic) said that of the 11 countries in the Great Lakes region, at least seven had experienced armed conflicts and other horrors arising from different factors, including recurrent fratricidal wars, endemic poverty, chronic underdevelopment and power hunger, among others.  Those countries had, to varying degrees, benefited from post-conflict programmes.  But the economic and strategic challenges of the region, rich in resources, had made it the subject of illicit exploitation and pillage.  The serious human and social consequences of crises and armed conflicts translated into large numbers of displaced people.


Noting the close links between security and development, he said no crisis was limited to a single country, whether the effects on its neighbours were direct or indirect.  The Central African Republic shared a 1,400-kilometre border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and had sheltered more than 20,000 refugees from Rwanda, Burundi and both Congos at the height of the Great Lakes crises.  The country had close commercial ties with the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo across the Congo-Oubangui rivers, links that had been severely shaken during the second war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  In 1994, the Bangui Mpoko airport had been the rear base for French forces of Opération Turquoise during the Rwanda genocide.  The 2001 intervention in the Central African Republic by troops loyal to the former Congolese rebel Jean-Pierre Bemba illustrated the effects of the Congolese conflicts on neighbouring States.


SIMEON A. ADEKANYE ( Nigeria) said there were undoubtedly signs of a turn-around in the political fortunes of countries in the Great Lakes, which boded well for the region’s peace and security.  In particular, the approaching end to the transition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the consolidation of peace in Burundi, and the indictment of the LRA leadership should encourage more active support for the peace process.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, unambiguous international support for the electoral process and internal reforms should manifest itself in concrete assistance to the Congolese Government.  Without such substantial assistance, the path which that Government was courageously treading would be bumpy.  On the other hand, such assistance, when provided, would send a positive message of support for the political process and enable the Congolese Government confidently to address governance issues, including the strengthening of national institutions.


Turning to Burundi, he said that the swearing in of President Pierre Nkurunziza had rekindled hope for the future of that country’s people.  Burundi needed encouragement and assistance to deepen the process of constitutional reform and national integration and development.  The international community’s cooperation with the regional and subregional organizations would strengthen Burundi’s capacity to follow through commitments under the new constitution.  The impending completion of the mandate of the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB) should not signal the end of the United Nations presence in that country.  On the contrary, the post-conflict phase provided an opportunity to activate and implement a programme of reconstruction and development.


The activities of non-State actors were a major threat to peace and security, especially in the Great Lakes, he stressed.  The combination of proliferation and trafficking of arms, the illegal exploitation of natural resources, and the illicit trade in those resources by illegal armed groups had continued to fuel and exacerbate conflicts in the region.  A firm and unambiguous stand by the international community was needed to rein them in and hold them and their collaborators, within and outside the region, accountable for their misdeeds, including the violation of international humanitarian law.  Neighbouring countries should not allow the use of their territories as launching pads for their attacks.


Nigeria expected a clear message to emerge from today’s debate, signalling the Security Council’s resolve to support regional and subregional initiatives to promote peace, security and development in the Great Lakes, he said.  The capacities of the region’s countries should be enhanced through a substantial infusion of assistance from donor countries and international financial institutions.  Democracy, good governance, the rule of law and protection of human rights should remain important principles in the pursuit of initiatives on peace and security in the region.  National and regional institutions should be nurtured and, where they were weak, strengthened to ensure that those principles were entrenched.  Finally, the humanitarian problems, created in the wake of conflicts and reflected in a high level of refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees, should be addressed in a global and comprehensive manner.  The focus of those efforts should continue to be rehabilitation of the victims and their integration into the mainstream of national life once conflicts ended.


MUNIR AKRAM ( Pakistan) said that five points appeared essential in building peace and security and advancing development in the region.  First, it was important to consolidate the gains made so far.  That required the sustained engagement of the United Nations and continued cooperation of the countries of the region.  The debate had affirmed that the regional States and the United Nations were committed to that course.  In that context, the vital importance of promoting good neighbourly relations based on mutual respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all States could not be overemphasized.  Second, the urgent challenges should be “frontally” addressed.  Foremost among those challenges was the effective and complete disarmament and demobilization of armed groups and militias, which posed a pervasive threat to peace and could sabotage the achievements of the peace processes.  Third, the United Nations should support the endeavour of the African States to assume ownership for security solutions to African problems.


He said that, fourth, sustainable peace in the Great Lakes could not be realized without a sustained and sufficient international commitment to support the region’s economic and social development.  Hopefully, the Peacebuilding Commission would be a valuable mechanism to marshal the necessary resources and cooperation to consolidate peace and prevent the recurrence of conflict.  Fifth, sustainable peace and successful economic growth in the region could not be achieved without addressing the complex root causes of the threats to security.  Foremost among those was the illegal exploitation of the region’s natural resources.  That must be addressed from both the supply and demand side.  The Kassem report should be followed up, and the financiers and profiteers of the illegal trade of natural resources must be dealt with in addition to those involved in the illegal exploitation, he said.


RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said that alongside such encouraging aspects as the constitutional referendum in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the holding of fair and transparent elections in Burundi and the beginning of the return of refugees from the United Republic of Tanzania, there continued to be an outrageous number of casualties caused by war-related diseases, gross human rights violations, including sexual violence against women and, in the political arena, the entanglement of warlords with the economic interests of local and foreign groups.


He said the Security Council and the international community as a whole had been providing crucial support for peacekeeping missions and humanitarian efforts in the region.  Likewise, the African Union, regional organizations and African leaders had been committed to the promotion of peace and stability in an area frequently presented as the heart of Africa.  But the challenges continued to be tremendous.  Peacekeeping efforts in the region had exacted a heavy toll.  The recent incident involving Guatemalan troops of MONUC was a stark reminder of the sacrifices being undertaken by troop-contributing countries in the quest for peace, but also pointed out the disproportionate burden borne by developing countries in United Nations peacekeeping operations.


An important principle to be observed was that of African ownership in solving pending crises and problems in the region, he said.  That went beyond entrusting regional and subregional African security mechanisms with responsibility over military operations and providing financial backing and capacity-building support.  It must allow for the increased involvement of African and national structures in the decision-making process regarding the solutions to those crises.


The United Nations structure itself, particularly the composition of the Security Council, offered evidence of the need for such adjustments, including an increased African membership, he said.  Without a balanced and fair composition at the decision-making level, there was little hope of correcting the practices that had led to the current almost paradoxical situation.  Despite the fact that African issues occupied the greater part of the Security Council’s agenda it was not uncommon to see reports in the press about the international community’s indifference to the situation on that continent.  Open meetings should also become common practice before the adoption of major decisions as a means to promote greater involvement by the United Nations membership and enhance not only transparency, but also the quality of the decisions reached.


MARTIN BELINGA-EBOUTOU ( Cameroon) said that considerable efforts still needed to be made to consolidate peace and stability, the preconditions for sustainable economic and social development.  The countries of the region, supported by the international community, must step up their efforts to meet the aspirations for peace.  He welcomed the statement of principles of Dar es Salaam, which had launched a process to overcome the challenges to peace and security, democracy and good governance, economic development and regional integration.  The relationship between those challenges and the interdependence of the countries of the region required an integrated approach.  A framework was in place.  Now, that should be strengthened, and negotiations should continue within that framework.  The regional dynamic for peace and integration and economic development, of course, depended on the stability of the States in the region.


In that regard, he said he welcomed the generally positive political developments taking place in the countries of the region.  The international community must continue to support Burundians in their efforts.  There was no doubt that the future Peacebuilding Commission would contribute in that regard.  The return to peace and stability for the Democratic Republic of the Congo would allow a qualitative step forward to be made towards the definitive stability of the region as a whole.  Recent positive development, including the successful constitutional referendum and good preparations for the elections in June, were cause for optimism.  The question of armed groups persisted, however, mandating that the countries of the region, individually and collectively, should take resolute and concerted action to disband and disarm them.  The combatants must be repatriated and reintegrated into society.


JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE ( Guatemala) thanked all the delegations that had expressed their condolences for the tragic loss of eight Guatemalan soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The country had had special forces and other peacekeeping troops serving in Burundi and the Democratic Republic since 2003, when Guatemala had held the presidency of the Economic and Social Council.  It was to be hoped that, with the imminent establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission, that body would focus on specific countries in conflict.


He said there had been slow but positive progress in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Guatemala wished to congratulate that country on its successful constitutional referendum.  Hopefully, the elections would meet equal success at the end of June 2006.  It was a matter of concern that foreign fighters could cause the kind of problems like those that had tragically taken the lives of the peacekeepers.  Guatemala encouraged countries in the region to apply the strictest controls over the movement of such fighters and over their natural resources.


Recalling that his country had benefited directly from United Nations peacekeeping, he said that despite the death of its peacekeepers, Guatemala would continue to support such operations. The United Nations was the only international body with the credibility and instruments to accomplish such difficult tasks.  Every effort in the United Nations should work towards the high ideals for which it had been created.  Guatemala paid homage to all those who had lost their lives for the cause of peace in the service of the United Nations.


JOHAN L. LØVALD ( Norway) said his country acknowledged the importance of a continued active United Nations engagement, as well as the African commitment to peacekeeping and mediation in the Great Lakes.  Norway strongly supported regional initiatives to enhance stability in the region, including the second Great Lakes Summit, the adoption of a pact on peace and security, and the Tripartite Plus One Commission.


The recent history of the Great Lakes had shown very clearly that national borders were porous and that loyalties transcended State frontiers, he said.  As a consequence, the security of one country could not be seen in isolation.  It was part of the larger regional picture.  Internal war or conflict in one country produced a spill-over effect in other countries, and that was particularly visible in terms of the movement of refugees, weapons and rebel groups.


Noting that the recent killing of MONUC peacekeepers illustrated clearly the regional security dimensions, he said that a positive outcome of the transitional process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was essential for the stability of the entire region.  The Government of Norway was, therefore, very concerned about the negative impact of LRA activities in that country.  The conflict between the Government of Uganda and the LRA not only had grave consequences for Ugandan civilians living in appalling conditions, it also affected the security of civilians in the whole region.  The conflict also affected the security and operational space of MONUC and UNMIS.


The International Criminal Court had taken an important step by issuing its first arrest warrants for five LRA commanders, he said, adding that his country would continue to support the Court’s efforts to end impunity for grave human rights violators.  While the Government of Norway acknowledged the fact that the responsibility to protect all Ugandan citizens lay with the Government of Uganda, it also believed that the LRA represented a threat to regional peace and security.  Norway urged the Security Council to address, at the earliest possible date, the grave impact of LRA actions.


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*     The 5357th & 5358th Meetings were closed.



For information media • not an official record